We are makers and restorers of pipe organs. We are best known for such large-scale organs as those in King’s College Cambridge, Westminster Abbey, and St Mary Redcliffe. But we also build fine smaller organs for churches, halls and private houses throughout Britain and abroad.
We are accredited by the Institute of British Organ Building (IBO) for all categories, i.e. Tuning & Maintenance, Cleaning and Overhaul, Rebuilding, New Organs (tracker and electro-pneumatic action), and Historic Restoration.
(click the headings for details)
New organ building – we build organs of all sizes and to any specification, across the world.
Restoration work requires the ability to place the aims of the original builder first. But when we build new organs, whatever their size, they are always instantly recognisable as Harrison instruments, with our characteristically colourful and exquisitely-blended voicing, closely associated with the English choral tradition.
Since the mid-1980s the majority of new H&H organs have employed mechanical action, although the firm still willingly uses electro-pneumatic action where considerations of architecture or musical style make it the best choice.
Each new organ that leaves the Durham workshop is installed and finished in every detail by our own organ builders. Each is a work of art: an authentic musical instrument with its own aesthetic integrity.
Organ restoration – we restore and rebuild organs of all sizes and styles, whether built by ourselves or by others.
“A remarkable success” Dr Harry Bramma, who was Organist at the time,
describing Harrisons’ restoration work on the renowned Lewis organ of Southwark
Cathedral, which included correction of the pitch and reinstatement of the original
In spite of their complexity, pipe organs can carry on for years without giving any trouble. Quite a small organ may have 1,000 pipes; a large organ 5,000 or more. Like any other piece of machinery, they need proper maintenance and adjustment to keep them in good working order.
As the organ gets older, it may start to get moody. Notes sound when they shouldn’t, or don’t sound when they should. Stops go silent. Bellows leak,keys rattle, components wear out. A thick layer of dirt settles in the moving parts, and clogs the pipes so that the sound gradually loses its freshness.
Leather may crack; the wood may twist so that sliders will not slide, or shrink so that air escapes where it shouldn’t. Mice, moth or woodworm may cause problems; dampness or water from a leaking roof may cause damage. After two or three decades, a simple cleaning and overhaul may be enough. But the time will eventually come when the entire instrument has to be taken apart for major restoration.
In country churches, this will probably be after 100 years or so. In a busy church, it may be needed sooner. But organs don’t suddenly crash out. They age gracefully, and a good instrument till give many more decades of reliable service if well restored.
Harrisons’ historic restorations are carefully researched and any changes are meticulously executed.
The firm’s advice on organ restoration is widely respected. Notable examples of our historic restoration work include the 1922-32 Willis organ of Westminster Cathedral, the 1897 Lewis organ of Southwark Cathedral, and the 1882 Willis organ of Reading Town Hall.
We are also specialists in the unusual and complex art of pneumatic restoration as at the Caird Hall, Dundee (H&H 1923), the Usher Hall Edinburgh (Norman & Beard 1914) and St Bartholomew’s Church Armley (Schulze 1869/Binns 1905).
Organ tuning & maintenance – we have a team of organ tuners operating across the country
Organs, like any other complicated machines, benefit from regular maintenance. Cathedral organs are usually tuned about once a month, whereas smaller organs in country parishes might need only a single visit each year.
Harrison & Harrison have a team of tuners – all fully qualified as organ builders – who tune and maintain instruments all over the UK.
Through our tuning work we have built excellent relationships with customers extending over many decades.
In accordance with the laws of physics, the tuning varies with the ambient temperature. Organs can malfunction if dirt gets into the mechanism, the timber shrinks or the leather dries out. Our tuners are skilled at making sure that the organ remains in good working order.
Continuo Organ hire– suitable for ensemble work or for a small church or chapel.
Stopped Diapason 8ft
Stopped Flute 4ft
Manual compass: C – f 3, 54 notes
Transposable from A = 440 Hz to A = 415 Hz
Please get in touch with us for hire costs and details.
To find out more about us, please follow The Harrison Story or use the links to the left.